The BBC’s Gaza framing evolves with Jon Donnison

The December 17th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included a thirteen-minute item which made use of part of Mishal Husain’s broadcast from the Gaza Strip that listeners to BBC Radio 4 had heard earlier in the day.

Presenter Jon Donnison introduced that item (from 30:06 here) using framing identical to that previously heard in the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “Gaza’s economic statistics make for grim reading. According to the World Bank 54% of the labour force in the tiny Palestinian territory is unemployed. The figure goes up to 70% for youth unemployment. Around eight out of every ten Gazans are dependent on food aid and around half of Gaza’s population of around 2 million people are registered refugees. Well today the UN is launching an appeal to raise $350 million for Palestinian refugees who it says are in dire humanitarian need. It comes after the United States cut hundreds of millions of dollars of UN funding destined for Palestinians. The economy’s been impacted by a blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt – they say for their security – and incomes have also been affected by Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas, the movement which has been in power in Gaza since 2007. Well the BBC’s Mishal Husain visited one of the refugee camps with Matthias Schmale, head of Gaza operations for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.”

Contrary to Donnison’s claim, the UN appeal for $350 million does not specify “Palestinian refugees” as the beneficiaries.

Listeners then heard Mishal Husain’s ‘Shati walkabout’ interview with Matthias Schmale which did not include any challenge whatsoever to UNRWA’s politicised messaging or any background information concerning that organisation and its mission, Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare and the effects of the Hamas-Fatah dispute on the Gaza Strip’s economy.

At 36:57 Jon Donnison then introduced an interviewee whose participation was obviously intended to reinforce the BBC’s highly selective framing of the ‘Gaza economic crisis’ story.

Donnison: “Well Sharren Haskel is a member of the Knesset – Israel’s parliament. She’s with the governing Likud party and also sits on the foreign affairs and defence committee. […] Ehm, first of all, how has Israel and Israeli citizen benefited from this blockade?”

Haskel: “Well you know your report actually brings out something that’s quite concerning because it’s very easy – and this is something that’s being repeated time after time – to sort of blame Israel for all the problems. But it’s really sort of letting Hamas off the hook…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “Well we heard…we heard the UN chap there being quite critical of Hamas. I’m asking you how has Israel…how has this blockade helped Israel’s citizens over the past 12 years?”

As Haskel spoke about Hamas’ investment of funding in cross-border tunnels and weapons rather than infrastructure and social services for the citizens of the Gaza Strip, Donnison interrupted her again.

Donnison: “No but you’ve…you’ve made…you’ve made that point several times so I’ll ask you a third time – how has the blockade helped Israelis, particularly those living on the border? Because it hasn’t worked, has it? It hasn’t made them safer. We’ve had three wars in the past 12 years. Thousands and thousands of rockets coming out of Gaza – they’re still coming out. You’d acknowledge that. It’s not worked, has it?”

Haskel: “Well to be honest this is not a blockade. You have Gaza and you have an independent entity. So they really have an autonomy to dictate their own future. They could have turned Gaza into a Singapore. They…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “Yeah, yeah, you’ve made that…you’ve made that point. My point is that as…as you know Israel probably needs to be looking at alternatives to the blockade which isn’t working, is it?”

As is all too frequently documented here, the BBC serially avoids stories which would provide its audiences with understanding of why Israel’s counter-terrorism measures are necessary – for example:

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

Documenting the BBC’s continuing silence on Gaza smuggling

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

BBC News passes up chance to explain why Israeli counter-terrorism measures exist

Had the BBC reported those stories and countless others, Donnison would of course not have been able to promote his facile and obviously politically motivated ‘blockade isn’t working’ theme quite so easily.  

After Haskel had noted the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip, the exit of people, the electricity supplied to Gaza by Israel and other humanitarian efforts, she observed that Egypt’s counter-terrorism measures do not garner the same criticism as Israel’s measures. Donnison interrupted with the following snide remark:

Donnison: “Well I’m speaking to you, aren’t I?”

As Haskel explained the background to Egypt’s policy and the efforts made by Israel to balance humanitarian aid with security, Donnison interrupted her yet again.

Donnison: “There are…there are many Palestinians in Gaza…there are many Palestinians in Gaza – possibly the majority – who are sick and tired of Hamas. But some would say that you are doing little to help ordinary Palestinians. The UN says you are in effect collectively punishing them.”

Listeners were not provided with any evidence to support Donnison’s claim that “many” Gazans and even “possibly a majority” are dissatisfied with Hamas. Haskel pointed out that if that is the case, then it is the residents of the Gaza Strip who have to do something about it.

Donnison: “Did you welcome the US cutting of funding to the UN refugee agency? Did you think that was helpful?”

Haskel replied that she did think it was helpful and began talking about another topic which the BBC serially avoids: Hamas’ manipulation of UNRWA. Donnison promptly interrupted her yet again.

Donnison: “Well can I just…can I just quote you the former IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner saying ‘Less American aid to Palestinians means more violence against Israelis. It isn’t in Israel’s interest.'”

Donnison of course did not bother to inform listeners that in that same Ha’aretz opinion piece, Lerner also highlighted UNRWA’s “many problems, including its politics, determined since 1949 by their one-sided mandate” and the fact that “Palestinian refugee camps have been hotbeds for terrorist activities”: additional topics studiously avoided by the BBC.

Indeed, when Sharren Haskel began talking about the glorification of terrorism in UNRWA school books and the fact that international funding “is going into perpetuating violence and hatred”, Donnison interrupted her twice and closed the interview.

While Jon Donnison’s Middle East politics have never been much of a secret, it is worth noting that the BBC’s framing of its much promoted ‘Gaza economic crisis’ story has now evolved from the notion that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt to the notion that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of a “blockade” imposed by Israel that “hasn’t worked” and is hence – by implication – unjustified.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

Revisiting a 2014 BBC report by Jon Donnison

Revisiting a five year-old BBC story

Jon Donnison’s breach of BBC editorial standards unravels

BBC’s Jon Donnison breaches editorial guidelines in straw-clutching Tweet

 

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When the BBC’s ‘context’ fails to make the grade

Context: The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.”

On November 21st the BBC’s Jerusalem-based correspondent Tom Bateman used Twitter to promote a filmed report concerning a restored piano in the Gaza Strip which had been published on the BBC News website that morning.

Previously Bateman had produced an audio report on the same story that was aired on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio earlier in the month. Three and a half years before that, the BBC had told the story of the same piano’s restoration on the BBC News website, on BBC Radio 4, on BBC World Service radio and on the BBC News TV channel.

Bateman’s latest report is titled “Gaza Strip’s only concert grand piano makes music again“.

“There is only one concert grand piano in Gaza and it has been played in a rare public performance after being restored.

The work, first documented by the BBC three years ago and now completed, was led by a charity that supports musicians in areas of conflict.”

Most of the report tells the piano’s story and depicts the concert that is its subject matter. However, the BBC also found it necessary to provide viewers with what was apparently supposed to be context.

“Gaza is blockaded by Israel and Egypt, who cite security concerns.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here when Bateman made a similar statement in his earlier audio report, this is by no means the first time that BBC audiences have heard that ‘Israel says’ portrayal of the reasons why it was necessary to introduce a ban on the entry of weapons to the Gaza Strip and controls on the import of dual-use goods.

Obviously BBC reporters such as Tom Bateman know full well that the context to Israel’s policy is the Palestinian terrorism which increased after Hamas’ violent take-over of the territory in 2007 and yet we nevertheless continue to see BBC journalists whitewashing that terrorism (even in a week following unprecedented terror attacks against Israeli civilians) by repeatedly describing the actions taken to counter it in terms of a ‘narrative’.

Viewers were also told that:

“Live music is rare in Gaza, which is run by the Islamist group Hamas”

No effort was made to explain to audiences the connection between the decline in live music events (and other social freedoms) and the fact that the Gaza Strip was violently taken over by an Islamist faction over a decade ago.

Although in both the above examples the BBC has ostensibly ticked boxes by providing audiences with background information relevant to the story, that ‘context’ is actually nothing of the sort. Rather than providing the full range of information required for proper enhancement of audience understanding, in both cases the BBC elected to skirt around ‘sensitive’ topics: Hamas’ terrorism and Hamas’ repression of the people who live under its extremist rule.

 Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman portrays counter-terrorism as a ‘narrative’

 

 

Stats defy the BBC’s repeated portrayal of a ‘siege’ on Gaza

When, in the summer of 2014, the BBC began describing the counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel along its border with the Gaza Strip as a “siege” we noted that the definition of that term is “a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender” and commented:

“A besieging army does not ensure and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid including food and medical supplies to those it surrounds. It does not supply them with 50% of their electricity supply, with oil and diesel or with cooking gas. It does not help them export their produce and give their farmers agricultural training. It does not evacuate their sick and treat them […] in its own hospitals.”

The use of that inaccurate terminology is however still evident in BBC content – both by unchallenged interviewees and by BBC journalists. For example:

“Gaza’s economy is definitely not able to support a population of 1.7 million people but that’s because of the siege imposed by Israel and Egypt.” (Jeremy Bowen, BBC Radio 4, 19/7/14)

“And I have to say – and this is one of the oddest things – from the decrepit heart of a half-destroyed city in a besieged and blockaded enclave, sometimes described as the biggest open air prison in the world, comes the best ice cream I have ever tasted.” (Roger Hearing, BBC Radio 4, 18/6/15)

“I had attended the war in Gaza in 2012. I’ve been working there for about the last five years and while I was there we had patients coming in – no equipment because the siege has gotten so bad even though it’s medical equipment – and we had to listen to patients’ chests by putting our ears to their chests…” (Tarek Loubani on ‘Newshour‘, 16/8/15)

“These people who suffered these wars and siege are now in rows having popcorn and watching [a movie that] reflects the Palestinian situation,” Mr Abu Saleh said. […] ‘The project is very important… because it is considered as one of the ways to break through the siege that has been forced on Gaza for 10 years’.” (Hugo Bachega, BBC News website, 8/4/16)

“‘The war’s over but the war-like situation is still going on’ he tells me. ‘The siege goes on, we’re still prisoners. The quality of life gets worse’.” (Yolande Knell, ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, 22/7/17)

“Of course life for ordinary people in Gaza is under tremendous pressure at the moment because it’s almost ten years of siege… […] I think what needs to be looked at is the whole siege of Gaza and I think that will require much more international determination both from the West and from the Gulf countries and Egypt to sort of say to Israel ‘look, it’s not in your interest to keep the siege going’.” (Oliver McTernan on ‘Newshour‘, 17/9/17)

“Hamas is also suffering because not easy now to rule Gaza and the policy of the political isolation from the international community, from the blockade and siege on Gaza from the Israeli occupation…” (Ghazi Hamad on ‘Newshour‘, 17/9/17)

“The siege for a long time destroyed our medical, our social, our economic life and nobody is interested about human rights where 2 million Palestinian people are living in this area.” (Mahmoud Zahar on ‘Hardtalk‘, 8/1/18)

On January 24th Israel’s Ministry of Defence published a summary of its Crossings Authority’s activity during 2017. In the section relating to the Kerem Shalom crossing the report states:

“The movement of Israeli goods that entered Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing grew and reached some 160 thousand lorries. The peak of the year was recorded in April when in one day over 1,000 lorries carrying goods crossed the crossing.”

The report also states that in 2017 there was a rise of 15% in the amount of goods transported and in the number of people using the various crossings to the Gaza Strip and Judea & Samaria administered by the authority, with 15 million crossings by Palestinians recorded.

Obviously a media organisation seriously committed to accurate and impartial reporting would not portray, or facilitate portrayal of, 160,000 truckloads of supplies in one year as a “siege”. The BBC, however, continues to do just that.  

Related Articles:

BBC fails to produce follow-up reporting on Gaza power story

No BBC reporting on latest Hamas cross-border tunnel

Gaza terror smuggling again not newsworthy for the BBC

Earlier this month BBC One viewers heard Andrew Marr portray Israeli counter-terrorism measures along the border with the Gaza Strip as follows (at 05:45 here) during an interview with the Israeli prime minister:

Marr: “Now what is also clear, however, is that your policy for Gaza is not working: the policy of having a kind of cordon around Gaza, restricting what can come in and out – a kind of blockade of Gaza – has actually increased the power of Hamas in Gaza and mobilised the population behind Gaza because of the appalling human rights situation inside Gaza. This policy is simply not working.”

As has been noted here on many occasions, the BBC’s portrayal of that topic is usually at best superficial and at worst misleading and politically motivated. In the past audiences have seen or heard restrictions on the movement of people and very specific materials in and out of the Gaza Strip inaccurately described as “collective punishment” or a “siege”.

“Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade around Gaza aimed at preventing attacks by militants there, though the measure has been condemned by rights groups as a form of collective punishment.” BBC News website, February 13th 2017.

“…the stifling border closures the Israeli government says are for security, the people here say are for collective punishment.” BBC World Service radio, February 1st 2017.

“One of the reasons Gaza’s often described as the largest open-air prison in the world is the difficulty of getting across the border with Israel.” BBC World Service radio, May 19th 2015.

However, beyond the ‘Israel says’ mantra, BBC audiences rarely hear about the reasons why restrictions placed on the border with the Gaza Strip are necessary because Hamas terrorism is consistently ignored, downplayed or erased – with the result being that BBC audiences are therefore ill-equipped to put portrayals such as the one by Marr into their appropriate context. 

Another story which would help BBC audiences understand the real reasons for counter-terrorism measures, including restrictions on the entry of weapons and dual purpose goods into the Gaza Strip, recently came to light.

“An Israeli laboratory at the Kerem Shalom Gaza crossing recently thwarted an attempted smuggling of several tons of explosive substances that were headed for terror groups in the strip.

The lab, which was recently established at the crossing at the behest of the Land Crossings Authority in the Ministry of Defense, was called into action after a truck arrived at the area that was carrying what was said to be a large load of car oils.

Guards conducting the security checks grew suspicious of the truck’s content, and transferred specific oil types to the lab for further investigation, where it transpired that the oils were not intended for car engines, but were rather dangerous substances intended for the production of large quantities of explosive devices.”

The BBC – which is of course committed to helping its funding public understand “the world around them” – has so far ignored this story, thereby passing up yet another opportunity to help its audiences understand why Israel’s counter-terrorism measures are necessary – even as it continues to focus their attentions on the “appalling human rights situation inside Gaza”.

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC’s continuing silence on Gaza smuggling

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

BBC News passes up chance to explain why Israeli counter-terrorism measures exist

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

 

Beirut bank bomb blanked by BBC News

One might have thought that a story concerning a terror organisation’s threats against a sovereign country’s banking system would have made at least one headline on the BBC News website but that has not been the case.

On the evening of June 12th a Beirut branch of the Banque du Liban et d’Outre-Mer (BLOM) was targeted with a large bomb.

“Shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday night a loud explosion reverberated throughout the western half of the country’s capital, raising fears a little over a week after Lebanon’s security services announced it foiled an ISIS terror plot.

A 15-kilogram improvised explosive device rigged in a flower pot outside of the BLOM Bank branch in the up-scale Verdun district shattered the glass façade of the building, according to an initial statement by Internal Security Forces (ISF) chief Ibrahim Basbous.

Lebanon’s Red Cross announced that two people were injured by the explosion, one of whom was rushed to a nearby hospital while another was treated at the spot.”

Whilst investigations into the incident are ongoing and no claim of responsibility has been received to date, journalists, analysts and Lebanese officials alike appear to have few doubts concerning the background to the story. As Tony Badran of FDD explains:

“The bombing comes as Lebanese banks, in compliance with U.S. law, began closing accounts of individuals and institutions belonging to or affiliated with Hezbollah. […]

The U.S. Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, passed in December 2015, threatened sanctions against individuals and entities found to be financing Hezbollah. This left Lebanese banks with a binary choice – serving Hezbollah or maintaining access to the global economy – and they wisely chose the latter. Unsurprisingly, the banks’ moves provoked Hezbollah’s ire. […]

In a statement by its parliamentary bloc last month, Hezbollah attacked Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, blaming his institution and “a number of banks” for participating in a “war of annihilation” against it on Washington’s behalf. […]

Hezbollah is now warning of “social instability” as a result of the banking measures. One day before the bombing, the pro-Hezbollah daily al-Akhbar ran the headline: “Hezbollah to banks: Enough conspiring.” The piece claimed that the measures were tantamount to an attack on the organization’s weapons, and its author singled out BLOM while other Hezbollah mouthpieces accused it of “leading the soft financial war on Hezbollah.””

Reuters reports that:

“At a meeting with the finance minister and central bank governor, Prime Minister Tammam Salam said the attack “rose to the level of damaging the national security of Lebanon”.

The banking sector was “the fundamental dynamo” of the economy and “one of the main pillars of the state in light of the paralysis suffered by the constitutional institutions”, he added, according to a government statement.

The central bank is widely seen as one of the only effective institutions in the weak state afflicted by political crisis since the onset of the Syria war in 2011. The banking sector is vitally important to Lebanon as a conduit for billions of dollars of annual remittances that keep its economy afloat.”

The Reuters article also includes the following quote from an anonymous Lebanese banker:

“The banks have no choice. They will not accept not to implement the sanctions because for them their survival is more important. If the Americans say to a bank: ‘you are out of the banking system’, the bank will default because it will be shut down from transactions in dollars,”

But apparently the story of a foreign backed terrorist organization threatening a country’s banking system is not newsworthy in the eyes of the BBC. Below are screenshots of the Middle East page of the corporation’s website the morning after the attack (13/6/16) and the following day.

ME HP 13 6 16a

ME HP 14 6 16a

 

 

 

 

 

Another example of the BBC’s double standards on terror

When members of the Belgian and French security forces carried out an operation in a Brussels neighbourhood on March 15th in connection with last November’s terror attacks in Paris, the BBC had no doubt what the story was about and used accurate language to describe it to audiences.

Reports appearing on the BBC News website included the following:

Brussels report 1

Source

Brussels report 2

Source

Brussels report 3

Source

Compare that portrayal to this BBC report from December 2013 which included the following revealingly punctuated statements.

“A Palestinian man is killed and at least four wounded after Israeli troops launch a “counter terrorism” operation in the West Bank.”

“Israel said its forces opened fire after being attacked during “counter terrorism activity” in the camp.”

Compare it too to this politicised February 2016 BBC portrayal of Israeli counter-terrorism measures (in this case a brief road closure) as “collective punishment” against Palestinians.

Once again the double standards so often evident in BBC reporting of terrorism related stories in different locations are on display.

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

BBC News continues to conceal PA’s glorification of terrorism

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 12th had its original title amended from “Israelis in disguise snatch Palestinian in hospital raid” to “Israelis shoot dead Palestinian in Hebron hospital raid” before it was finally headlined “Israelis in disguise raid Hebron hospital, seizing suspect“.Shalaldeh arrest

The incident reported in that article took place when IDF Special Forces arrested 20 year-old Azzam Shalaldeh who was wounded whilst carrying out a terror attack in Gush Etzion on October 25th.

“The Israeli’s car was pelted with stones at the entrance to the settlement of Metzad. He was hit in the head, causing him to pull over and leave his vehicle. He was then stabbed by a Palestinian man.

The Israeli opened fire at the terrorist and wounded him, but the terrorist managed to flee the scene, likely towards the nearby village of Si’ir.”

The BBC article tells readers that:

“Mr Shalaldeh is alleged to have stabbed and wounded an Israeli on 25 October before escaping after being shot by the victim.

Palestinian officials said Mr Shalaldeh’s 27-year-old cousin, Abdallah Azzam Shalaldeh, was shot and killed in Azzam Shalaldeh’s hospital room.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said he was shot after attacking the Israeli forces. Azzam Shalaldeh’s brother Bilal, who was also in the room at the time, said Abdallah Azzam Shalaldeh was shot without warning when he emerged from a bathroom.

Shin Bet said Azzam Shalaldeh belonged to “a family of Hamas militants”, AFP news agency reported.”

It is of course highly unlikely that the Israel Security Agency used the term “militants” to describe the proscribed terror group Hamas and several other media organisations – including Sky News and CNN reported the same statement as having described “a family of Hamas operatives”.

The BBC did not clarify in its report that the Shaladeh family’s version of events supports that given by the ISA – thus leaving readers with a confusing impression which clearly does not contribute to meeting the corporation’s remit of building “understanding” of international issues.

“The Shalaldeh family, that came to collect Abdullah’s body, claimed Israel had executed him, but admitted that he tried to fight the soldiers after realizing they were trying to arrest his cousin.” [emphasis added]

According to the BBC report:

“The Israeli military operates an undercover unit colloquially known as Duvdevan, which sometimes mingle undetected with Palestinians during riots before snatching suspects.” [emphasis added]

The unit’s official name is Duvdevan and that title is not, as stated by the BBC, an informal appellation.

The ‘context’ provided to readers of the BBC’s report inaccurately states that ten – rather than twelve – Israelis had been murdered in the recent wave of terror as of November 12th:

“Ten Israelis and dozens of Palestinians have been killed in recent unrest.

Many of the Palestinian fatalities were attackers in near-daily stabbings of Israelis, shot by their victims or security forces.

The surge in violence began in September when tensions at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem revered by Jews and Muslims boiled over, amid rumours that Israel planned to relax long-standing rules to strengthen Jewish rights at the complex.

Israel has repeatedly denied such claims.”

As we see, the BBC not only continues to avoid telling audiences in its own words that such rumours are baseless, but also continues to refrain from informing them on the topic of the Palestinian Authority’s role in promoting the incitement which underpins the wave of violence and its subsequent glorification of terrorism through acts such as erecting monuments to and naming streets after terrorists.

 

 

BBC avoids yet another Hamas story

Over the past year we have on several occasions had cause to note the fact that the BBC has consistently avoided telling its audiences about efforts to strengthen and increase Hamas’ presence in Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea & Samaria in general and those directed by senior Hamas figures residing in Turkey in particular.No news

Equally absent from the reporting provided to BBC audiences has been information concerning the links of Hamas’ Qatar-based branch to terrorist activity in the same area – for example in January 2013 and June 2014 – and the connections between the Turkey and Qatar-based branches of the terrorist organisation.

On July 1st the Israel Security Agency announced that, together with the IDF and the Israeli police, it had exposed extensive Hamas activity in the Nablus (Schem) area and that some forty arrests had been made. As Ha’aretz reported, the ISA noted the role of Hamas spokesman Husam Badran (also spelt Hossam or Hussan) in the plot.

“Several of the detainees have already been charged in the military court in Samaria, and more charges are expected in the coming weeks. Two of those arrested are considered to be the top Hamas operatives in Nablus: Ghanem Salme, who the Shin Bet defines as the Hamas commander in the region, and Samih Aliwi, owner of a gold shop in the city who was responsible for the Hamas HQ’s finances. Several of the arrested activists had previously served time in Israeli prisons for involvement in Hamas activity.

The establishment of the headquarters in Nablus, the Shin Bet believes, was assisted by Hamas spokesman Husam Ali Badran, who used to be the commander of the organization’s military wing in the Samaria area. Badran was released as part of the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap and expelled to Qatar. According to the Shin Bet, he is currently operating in Turkey under Saleh Aruri, who is in charge of Hamas operations in the West Bank. […]

The Shin Bet claims that Badran was involved in the decision to recruit operatives for the new headquarters in Nablus, transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to them in order to finance their activity.”

Seeing as it has been covered extensively by the Israeli media as well as by foreign news agencies it is of course highly unlikely that the staff of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau are unaware of this story’s existence. Nevertheless, there has once again been no coverage of this latest link in the chain of Hamas efforts to strengthen its presence in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Perhaps next time the BBC approaches Khaled Masha’al for a quote or invites him to do a sympathetic interview it could also make the most of the opportunity to do some journalism on a topic which would undoubtedly contribute to meeting its remit of building “understanding of international issues”.

BBC downplays Palestinian terrorism in Jenin incident report

“Palestinians killed in Israeli raid” was the lead headline on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of March 22nd 2014. The sub-header also omitted any mention of what those Palestinians were doing when the incident which is the subject of the report took place.

“Israeli security forces shoot dead at least three Palestinians during an arrest operation in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.”

Jenin story on HP

The link leads to a short 132 word report titled “Three Palestinians killed in Israeli raid on Jenin“.

The article’s opening paragraph also ignores the actions of the Palestinian casualties.

“Israeli security forces have shot dead at least three Palestinians during a raid to arrest a Hamas member in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.”

Readers have to proceed to the third paragraph (out of a total of six) in order to discover that the incident actually began when a wanted member of a terrorist organization opened fire on Israeli troops trying to arrest him.

“It [the IDF] said he barricaded himself in his home and opened fire, injuring two soldiers, and was then shot dead.”

Via the Jerusalem Post we learn that:

“The terror suspect, Hamas member Hamza Abu Aleija, planned to attack Israelis in the West Bank and Israel, according to suspicions.

“He’s one of the most important terror suspects that we’ve been looking for,” a security source told The Jerusalem Post.”He’s escaped several past attempts to apprehend him.”

As Counter-Terrorism Unit members approached the house to make an arrest, shots were fired at them. The special forces stopped their approach, and the army used loudspeakers to call on all of the residents to evacuate the building.

“Everyone left the home other than the suspect. We ensured there were no family members inside,” the source said. Meanwhile, Abu Aleija continued firing bursts of gunfire at security forces, and Palestinian gunmen from the area arrived at the scene, opening fire on the infantry soldiers who were securing the operation.

The Counter-Terrorism Unit sent a dog into the home, and the animal was shot dead by Abu Aleija.

The wanted suspect then came out of the home, shooting as he went. He struck two members of the Counter-Terrorism Unit, injuring them lightly. The unit returned fire, killing him on the spot. Meanwhile, soldiers securing the operation returned fire at the gunmen attacking them, killing two.”

The wanted man’s name is not mentioned in the BBC report and the only clue given to readers as to why he was being arrested comes in the form of the following terse sentence:

“The Israeli military said it wanted to arrest a man accused of plotting attacks on Israelis.”

According to the Times of Israel, Palestinian sources made the same claimJenin incident

“The IDF said that Abu al-Hija was “wanted for numerous shooting and bombing attacks as well as planning future acts of terrorism.” […]

A Gaza-based media outlet associated with Hamas tweeted shortly after Abu al-Hija’s death that sources said the dead man was “preparing a major operation” against Israel before he was killed.”

Ynet adds:

“Israeli military sources said the attempted arrest followed a months-long pursuit of the fugitive Al-Hija. The IDF surrounded his house Saturday morning after receiving precise intelligence on his location.

Security establishment officials said he was planning terror operations against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers in the West Bank. Military sources said Al-Hija received orders directly from Hamas leadership in Gaza.

Al-Hija had been linked to at least two attacks on IDF forces in the past.”

The BBC report goes on to state:

“A further two Palestinians were killed as rioters attacked the security forces, Palestinian sources say.

The Israeli army reported in a tweet killing four “terrorists” in the clashes while, according to AFP news agency, 14 Palestinians were also wounded, two of them critically.”

Whilst the BBC places the word terrorists in scare quotes, it does not reveal to readers that at least two of the other men killed were members of other terrorist organisations.

“Hamas member Hamza Abu al-Hija, 22, Islamic Jihad operative Mahmud Abu Zeina, 25, and Yazen Jabarin, 22, a member of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades, were killed in the shootout with Israeli forces.”

That information was confirmed by Palestinian sources, as well as by the terrorist organisations themselves.

“Palestinian officials confirmed three militants had been killed, Alhija from Hamas and one each from Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Abbas’ Fatah movement.”

“In a joint statement, Hamas’ military wing al-Qassam Brigades, Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades threatened a “painful” retaliation against Israel.”

The description of the additional casualties as “rioters” who “attacked the security forces” does not make it sufficiently clear to audiences that the hundreds of attackers were armed with improvised explosive devices and firebombs. It also fails to clarify that at least some of the “14 Palestinians” also wounded in the incident were armed gunmen.

“According to Palestinian sources, several armed gunmen were also in the house, seven of which were injured in the operation and were evacuated to a nearby hospital.”

The overall effect of this BBC report is to mislead audiences by failing to clarify the fact that all three of the men killed in the incident were members of terrorist organisations, by downplaying the actions of terrorists and armed rioters and by placing the focus of attention on the actions of IDF soldiers. That imbalanced and partial presentation is clearly not conducive to accurate audience understanding of the incident.  

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Hamas in Jenin: pictures the BBC will not show

BBC double standards on the term counter-terrorism

BBC double standards on the term counter-terrorism

Late on the evening of December 18th the Middle East page of the BBC News website promoted an article under the headline “Palestinian dies in Israeli raid”, with the sub-header reading:

“A Palestinian man is killed and at least four wounded after Israeli troops launch a “counter terrorism” operation in the West Bank.”

HP 19 12 2

The article at the link was titled “Palestinian dies during Israeli raid in West Bank” and much of it seems to be taken from a Ma’an News Agency report.

In the body of the article itself it is written:

“Israel said its forces opened fire after being attacked during “counter terrorism activity” in the camp.”

The unnecessary use of scare quotes around the phrase counter-terrorism both on the Middle East page and in the article itself raises the question of whether that is the result of the BBC not being entirely convinced that an operation to arrest a wanted member of a terrorist organization (in this case, apparently  Hamas) should be described as counter-terrorism, or whether it is the product of the BBC’s well-known aversion to the use of the word terror and its unfortunate habit of describing recognized terror organisations as “militants”. 

Jenin incident

It is no longer possible to provide a link to that article because on the morning of December 19th it was removed and replaced at the same URL by an article going under the heading “Two Palestinians die in W Bank raids”.

19 12 me pge 2

Later on in the day, the article’s profile on the page was raised and a sub-heading added which describes a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a “militant”. 

19 12 me pge 3

The link leads to an article with the same title.

header Jenin & Qalqilya

The bulk of that article relates to a separate incident which took place in Qalqilya on the same evening in which a member of the Palestinian Security Forces was shot after he fired at Israeli soldiers. Qalqiliya 2

After quoting the IDF spokesman on the subject of the circumstances of the incident, the BBC article goes on to present unverified hearsay from anonymous Palestinian sources.

“But an unnamed local Palestinian official told Reuters news agency that Mr Yassin had been killed in cold blood while returning home from work. Local hospital staff said he had been shot in the back.”

As can be seen in photographs accompanying this report from the Ma’an News Agency (warning: graphic images), the latter claim by “local hospital staff” clearly required verification before being repeated by the BBC. 

So, does the BBC employ similar punctuation when it describes counter-terrorism activities carried out in other countries? Well, there are no scare quotes in this report or this report or this report – all from the UK. Neither does such punctuation appear in this report from Northern Ireland in which, notably, the words terrorism and terrorist do appear numerous times.

That certainly requires some explaining.